Scotland’s world heritage sites will be brought to life by spectacular sound and light projections, pop-up festivals and street musicians, dramatic Viking re-enactments, a “Great Roman Bake-Off” and a St Kilda version of Minecraft.
Special events will be held in the heart of historic Edinburgh, in the shadow of the Forth Bridge, Neolithic Orkney, at the site of the Antonine Wall in Falkirk and at a former 18th century cotton mill in Lanarkshire as part of the first year-long celebration of Scotland’s history and heritage.
Other one-off events in a £1 million campaign, which will be at the heart of VisitScotland’s promotional efforts over the next 12 months, will be staged in Scotland’s most northerly inhabited island, Unst in Shetland, the birthplace of the Paisley Pattern, and at the home of the Kelpies horse head sculptures.
There are also special celebrations planned to mark the 250th anniversary of the beginnings of Edinburgh’s New Town, the 450th anniversary of Mary Queen of Scots being held captive at Lochleven Castle, in Kinross, and Scotland's historic links with India.
The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology is the ninth annual themed campaign instigated by the Scottish Government, which is funding the events programme along with the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Highlights are set to include include a bid to deploy “yarn-bombers and guerilla knitters” to transform New Lanark’s world heritage site with multi-coloured cotton, a new weaving festival in Paisley, and a two-day celebration of Shetland’s Viking heritage featuring the reconstruction of a long house, a camp, a banquet and beach raids.
A string of Georgian buildings in Edinburgh’s New Town and the garden at the heart of St Andrew Square will be transformed by special lighting effects, while groups of classical musicians and “wandering minstrels will take to the streets to celebrate the city’s world heritage status. Pop-up performances are also being lined up for North and South Queensferry, which are linked by the Forth Bridge.
Costumed runners dressed as Romans and Picts will descend on Callendar Park in Falkirk for a 5K race which will end in a Great Roman Bake-Off in honour of the area’s past as a frontier of Rome’s Northern Frontier, while a celebration of Scotland’s equine heritage will be staged at nearby Helix Park, where Andy Scott’s Kelpies sculptures can be found.
The Western Isles will play host to a special event allowing Minecraft players to explore and excavate its remote archipelago St Kilda. Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, will host a festival exploring Scotland’s historic ties with India.
A mix of new and established events will be promoted by VisitScotland under the banner of the campaign, which will also coincide with the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Festival.
Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop, who unveiled the first programme details at the Mary King’s Close attraction in Edinburgh’s Old Town, said: “We are so fortunate in Scotland to have the most fascinating and inspiring history and heritage on our doorsteps, bringing the spirit of Scotland alive.
“The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology will highlight and showcase our history and heritage to the world. As well as our history of many well-known stories and famous, indeed some infamous, historical characters, next year will also give us an excellent opportunity to focus on Scotland’s world-renowned archaeology, enticing visitors and locals alike to visit not only our known iconic landmarks with their thousands of years of history, but also our many hidden gems.”
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland, added: “Scotland is the land where great legends were made throughout history, and so it is only apt that we should have such a unique line-up of events and activities.
“We know for a fact that visitors come to Scotland in their droves to experience its heritage whether that’s visiting a castle, exploring a battlefield or tracing ancestral roots.
“From world heritage sites to ancient monuments, cultural traditions to our myths, stories and legends – the year-long programme will spotlight some of our greatest assets and icons as well as our hidden gems.
“We look forward to delving into Scotland’s past with visitors and locals alike and coming face to face with history, heritage and archaeology across the country.”